HOUSTON – What scares you more, demons, ghosts and goblins, or a ghost tax preparer?
Former United States Attorney Kenneth Magidson reveals what a ghost tax preparer is, “a person who prepares other people’s taxes but does not sign the tax return. In other words, he’s a ghost. So nobody knows about him, and it usually involves some kind of deception upon the Internal Revenue Service.”
These types of preparers usually reel unsuspecting clients in by promising huge tax refunds and far lower tax bills, but they do this by falsifying tax returns. When they can’t be found, you can be left holding the bag. In the worst cases, ghost tax preparers may funnel your refund straight to them, stealing your money.
The Complaint: Thousand of tax returns falsified
Here in Houston, the United States Department of Justice filed a complaint in Federal Court to stop Jonathan Perry and X-Pert Tax Services from ever preparing tax returns again.
The complaint alleges between 2017 – 2022, Perry and his company filed more than 4,000 income tax returns. Many of those returns were allegedly falsified by inflating customer tax refunds, fabricating employee business expenses, lying about business losses, and falsely claiming educational credits and fuel tax credits.
In all, Perry is accused of costing the United States government more than $4.4 million in tax revenue.
Magidson says, “This is very big! Because the Department of Justice’s Tax Division is not only using this case as an example, but it’s trying to demonstrate… it’s sort of a warning to the public that if you’re going to employ a tax return preparer, you should look into it and make sure they are above board.”
In our hunt to find Perry and question him about the money, we found two closed offices and no one answering the phone lines.
But, in a recent court filing, Perry denied the allegations that he falsified portions of customers’ tax returns.
“I think they should lock him up and throw away the key,” says Texas State Board of Public Accountancy Executive Director Bill Treacy. “I’ve never heard of a case of anyone, licensed or not licensed that racked up that many violations.”
He says Perry is not a certified public accountant.
How to spot a Ghost Tax Preparer?
To shed light on potential ghost tax preparers, you’ll want to look for these red flags:
- Avoid any preparer who asks to be paid in cash without a receipt.
- Avoid those who base their fees on a percentage of your refund.
- Avoid someone who asks you to invent fake income to qualify for tax credits.
- Avoid anyone who wants to claim fake deductions to boost your refund.
Both the IRS and the Texas State Board of Public Accountancy are good resources to find out who is a qualified CPA tax professional because you don’t want to hire just any clown to do your taxes who’ll ghost you when the IRS wants to ask questions.